Sunday, July 4, 2010

We Have Moved!

We have a new site and domain name! Update your links and RSS: www.mediapotluck.net

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Cobra (1986)

JUNE IS GOING TO BE COBRA MONTH! All next month we will be posting Cobra related articles and content, culminating in a Cobra viewing party. Check back for more details!

A few months ago I was talking with my buddy Jim DeSantis who runs the podcast Movie Brain Rot and somehow our discussion moved to Sylvester Stallone's film Cobra. (Honestly how many conversations don't?) We started throwing around facts about the film and realized the world may want to know and share the joys we have experience getting a better understanding of its place in our nation's history and pop-culture psyche. So we sat down and made it happen:

Movie Brain Rot Episode 60 - Cobra

Keep up to date with Jim's other podcasts on Twitter. @moviebrainrot

In 1985, Stallone was coming off of two extremely successful films in two well know franchises, Rambo: First Blood Part II and Rocky IV. As previously mentioned on this blog, Rambo contains a strong political message as our patriotic hero gets a second chance to go back to Vietnam and "win this time" in a war that was lost by politics and spineless bureaucrats. Again a similar theme is displayed in Rocky IV as Stallone defeats the communist juggernaut Ivan Drago and changes the heart's of a nation as he delivers a speech on change, while wrapped in an American Flag. Cobra (1986) continues what I like to call the political trilogy in Stallone's career, tackling the issue of crime in America and the bureaucratic rules and regulations that prevent the police from combating the every growing violence. The opening monologue:


"In America… there’s a burglary every 11 seconds... an armed robbery every 65 seconds... a violent crime every 25 seconds... a murder every 24 minutes... and 250 rapes a day."



And so begins an hour and a half of of Marion "Cobra" Cobretti shooting, burning, and tackling crime by his own rules. As part of the "Zombie Squad" Cobra is the bottom line, doing the job nobody else wants to do. To my knowledge no other film brings the "no rules cop" concept to the forefront more openly than Cobra. Of course most action films in the 80s contain a hint of this notion and crowds (this author included) love when the good guy can finally take off the gloves and just win. But with scenes so up front in their message, Cobra almost stands out like a PSA against the downfalls of the current justice system. In a 1986 review The New York Time's Nina Darnton even goes as far as to say, "this film shows such contempt for the most basic American values embodied in the concept of a fair trial that Mr. Stallone no longer, even nominally, represents an ideology that is recognizably American." Whoa.

In the podcast Jim and I discuss this and other opinions of the film, taking a look back with 20+ years of reflection on an era where the people were looking to roll up their sleeves and start fixing the nation.

But the podcast is not all serious discussion! After all, Cobra is first and foremost an action film written by and starring one of our best known action stars from a decade famous for its over the top (no pun-intended) action films. It has one-liners, a new world order subplot, axes, and one of the best villain deaths ever caught on film. We touch on the importance of the soundtrack and branding of the film, which lead a young Jim DeSantis to walk around with a matchstick in his mouth and me to instantly purchase the soundtrack before even seeing the film based on the cover alone. We also talk about the strange career of director George P. Cosmatos and his involvement with Stallone and other well known Hollywood actors who wished to direct from behind the scenes.

- Nick

Monday, May 10, 2010

Big Trouble for Buckaroo Banzai

Media Potluck is proud to present, "Big Trouble for Buckaroo Banzai" on Saturday, May 29th 2010.

Two outstanding genre-bending comedy adventures in the same night!  Both of them mysteriously connected...

The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension is one of the most influential sci-fi comedies of all time and a major cult classic. Released in 1984, directed and produced by W. D. Richter, Buckaroo Banzai combines a complex comic book plat with sharp whit and hard science for a wild ride. The film stars a ludicrous cast including Peter Weller, Jeff Goldblum, John Lithgow, Christopher Lloyd, and Ellrn Barkin. Thrill as Dr. Buckaroo Banzai renowned physicist, neurosurgeon and rock musician tears a hole in the fabric of space and time and accidentally ignites a war on Earth between two inter-dimensional aliens... a war that only he and the Hong Kong Cavaliers can fight. The film has influenced writers and filmmakers for decades including Wes Anderson, whose credit sequence in The Life Aquatic is an homage to this film.



Buckaroo flopped in theaters... and a sequel, Buckaroo banzai Versus the World Crime League was planned but never released, however, W.D. Richter was called on to write the scrip for John Carpenter's Big Trouble in Little China and there are some striking similarities... Namely that Big Trouble's nefarious villain, Lo Pan is strikingly similar to accounts of Buckaroo's arch nemesis, Hanoi Xan. Yes, for all intents and purposes, John Carpenter's legendary Kurt Russel kung-fu epic is the Buckaroo Banzai sequel that never was!



Not only is this a Media Potluck, but it's also a REAL potluck, so everyone is asked to try to bring some food to share! We will be providing a delicious cake. Please RSVP and comment with what delicious food you'll bring.

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Monday, March 22, 2010

Aliens vs Rambo


Media Potluck is proud to present, "Aliens vs Rambo: James Cameron's Action Sequels".

We will be screening two action sequels that have permeated the American cultural psyche and exist thanks in part to the vision of James Cameron. Aliens (1986) and Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985) have spawned countless rip-offs, references, and parodies providing more evidence that Cameron has the ability to create films (and sequels) that have an impact and lasting power far beyond their contemporaries.

Not only is this a Media Potluck, but it's also a REAL potluck, so everyone is asked to try to bring some food to share! We will be providing a delicious cake. Please RSVP and comment with what delicious food you'll bring.

Aliens takes the brooding suspense and horror of the first Alien film (1979) and injects it with adrenaline to create a new form of cinematic terror. Sigourney Weaver returns as Ellen Ripley, awakened from hyper sleep after 57 years adrift in the space to find the world she once knew replaced by a suicide mission with a platoon of space marines that takes her back to LV-426, the planet that began her nightmare. We will be screening the 1992 Special Edition. This version adds in seventeen minutes of footage including an alternative opening revealing how the Aliens make their way into the colony on LV-426, the marines using sentry guns to fight off a hoard of xenomorphs, and a subplot involving Ripley's deceased daughter that adds a greater depth to her character. Lock and load or its game over, man.



Beginning the political era of Stallone's career, Rambo: First Blood Part II provides a second chance at the Vietnam war where the the bureaucrats get the boot and America gets to win this time. But before Sly added in his political overtones, Cameron laid down a solid framework that gives recently imprisoned veteran John J. Rambo a chance to reconcile his post-war grievances and document the possible existence of prisoners of war still trapped in Vietnam. The reconnaissance mission ends with Rambo shirtless, oiled up, and firing an M-60 from the hip. If you don't like this film then move to Canada.



Cameron provides two solid stories of damaged heroes getting a second chance to eradicate the demons that haunt them.

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We hope to see you there!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Fantasy February

 Media Potluck is proud to present, "Fantasy February"!

We're going to be screening two outstanding and artful forays into the fantasy genre, Ridley Scott's Director's Cut of "Legend" and Richard Donner's "Ladyhawke". Both these films are ripe with action, comedy, drama, romance, and incredible casts.

This isn't just a regular Media Potluck party but also Cap and Eleanor's anniversary party, celebrating their 7 years together. It's a costume party! Should the spirit be willing come dressed in some sort of medieval, renaissance, or fantasy attire. (But don't feel bad if you must wear modern garb). There will be party favors and much fun.

"Legend" (1985) is a lush fairy-tale like fantasy world, threatened to be corrupted by Darkness. A young Tom Cruise and Mia Sara star as two young lovers torn apart by the demonic Darkness (a legendary performance by Tim Curry). They must resist the torment, torture, and seduction of their idyllic world torn-asunder. "No good without evil, no love without hate, no innocence without lust. I am Darkness." We'll be screening Scott's Director's Cut. Though it loses the amazing Tangerine Dream score and Jon Anderson track, it gains a Jerry Goldsmith score and an already great film is made even better by additional and extended scenes.



Also from 1985 (oddly enough) Donner's "Ladyhawke" is a seldom seen take on the fantasy genre. A very realistic,12th century setting, with no obvious fantasy elements save one: a curse. Two lovers (Rutger Hauer and Michelle Pfeiffer) were cursed by a jealous Bishop. By night Hauer is a wolf, by day Pfeiffer is a hawk - never to meet in human form ever again. Matthew Broderick plays a young thief, whose daring escape from an inescapable prison gives Hauer the call for revenge.



Not only is this a Media Potluck, but it's also a REAL potluck, so everyone is asked to try to bring some food to share! We will be providing a delicious cake.

RSVP on Facebook.
Non-Facebook users e-mail us to RSVP and get directions at mediapotluck@gmail.com.  


We hope to see you there!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Football Music Videos (1985-present)

Super Bowl XLIV is almost upon us. So it's only right that we dust off the old classic, The Chicago Bear's “The Super Bowl Shuffle”. But everyone's seen that video. There's not an 80s retrospective that doesn't at least mention it. Here's what you might not know: “ The Super Bowl Shuffle” was only the beginning. After The Bears' track made it to the 41st place on the Billborad charts, got a Grammy nomination for Best Rhythm & Blues Vocal Performance, and led into them decimating the Patriots at Super Bowl XX, every team wanted a some of that good luck music mojo. The Shuffle spin-offs are all over the place - hilarious, god-awful, and kitschy. Some of them surpass“Super Bowl Shuffle” in quality, and many more of them fall far beneath it. Good, bad, and ugly, Media Potluck has charged through the offense to give you a touchdown of gridiron gems and musical miscellany.



Put plainly, “The Super Bowl Shuffle” is not good. It's 100% novelty riding on the coattails of a massively successful season for The Bears. You cold say it's the good kind of “bad”, but that depends on your endurance. The track is an absurd six minutes in length, so that every member of the team has a chance to rap a verse. (You know, “rapping”, it's that urban fad all the kids are into these days). But hey, they're “not this because [they're] greedy, The Bears are doin' it to feed the needy”, so it's all good. Though it's seldom recognized for it, “The Super Bowl Shuffle” was right at the beginning of the super-powered charity song trend - debuting between “Do They Know it's Christmas?” in late 1984 and “We Are the World” in the early 1985. This is one of the aspects that sets it apart from all its spin-offs. The Bears were shufflin' for a purpose, everyone one else was doing it to look cool.

The Bears didn't invent team songs. Perhaps the most direct precursor to the “Super Bowl Shuffle” is a track from 1980 of the Detroit Lions, fronted by their Safety Jimmy “Spiderman” Allen, parodying Queen's “Another One Bites the Dust”. But a century before that, the Cincinnati Red Stockings would occasionally join together and sing a song to their spectators during their 1800s baseball games. From the 70s until the early 90s it was also popular for UK football teams to record a song if they qualified for the FA Cup Final. These recordings, called the “cup final record” were either original compositions or parodies of popular songs, and, like “The Super Bowl Shuffle” some of them even made it in the pop charts.  None of the “Shuffle” spin-offs can say the same.

It's a little known fact that there was another pre-Super Bowl XX song in 1985. The unlikely culprits: The Seattle Seahawks and their song, “Locker Room Rock”. Unlike almost all other football songs that followed, there's no rap to be found here. Without the influence of “The Super Bowl Shuffle”, the Seahawks delivered something completely different: a 50s rock 'n' roll style jam more like something that stumbled from a high school production of Grease than a football fight song. The video even has a musical-style dramatic setup. The team is exhausted but, ol' number 55 (Michael Jackson) comes in, tenderly wiping some sweat off a teammates chin, and gives them an enthusiastic song-and-dance pep talk, 'cause “the blue wave is on a roll.” Bonus points are awarded for one of the team emerging from a steamy shower room wearing only a towel and playing the saxophone.



In '86, just before the Bears swept Super Bowl XX, their contenders, The New England Patriots released a song of their own. But instead of a right-back-at-ya rap, the song is a cheerful anthem with a bit of anti-Bear bloodlust from the New England community called, “New England, The Patriots and We”. The song was recorded mostly by local New England celebrities, with the Patriots in a few shots and verses (suspiciously all wearing MTV caps).

After their Super Bowl win, every team wanted a piece of the “Shuffle” pie and the lasting power of The Bears' goofy charity track began to show. The “Shuffle” spin-offs attempt to vary somewhat in style and direction, they essentially replicate the format of the Bear's track: the ridiculous image of padded football players dancing back and forth, and each player rapping a self-referential, usually boastful verse. With this format, most of these songs are as unbearably long as the “Super Bowl Shuffle”. What singles out the “Shuffle” from all the copycats is that The Bears seem really into it. In many of the spin-off videos there are a few players that are very obviously uncomfortable, either with stage fright or that they don't want anything to do with any MTV tomfoolery. It's one of the many added novelties to the post-“Shuffle” videos.
The crown jewel of 1986 football songs is without a doubt the L.A. Rams' “Ram It”. The song is non-stop sexual innuendo. It's hilarious, catchy, and very self-aware: “if you ram it just right you can ram it all night.” See it to believe:



The Oakland Raiders' “Silver and Black Attack” is a definite change of pace from the feel-good football tracks. The song is said to be a stylistic reference to the Christian metal group, Stryper, who were popular at the time (their first album is entitled Yellow and Black Attack). The actual effect of the hair metal combined with the Raiders' rapping makes it more reminiscent of dark gangsta rap. At 2:45 one of the players, disguised as a hair metal guitarist jumps in and starts wailing on the guitar and most of the team recoils with their hands on their ears. Yeah, real tough, guys.



Meanwhile in 1986, other sports took the opportunity to do their own shuffling, or boogying as may be the case. The University of Memphis Pom-Pon Squad performed their “Pom-Pon Shuffle” during one of the Memphis Tigers' halftime performances. It's nothing special, but skip ahead to 2:43 for a guaranteed spit-take. The L.A. Dodgers' “Baseball Boogie” takes the sport video fad to ridiculous, high-budget extremes with an enthusiasm not matched by any football team. You could say they're a little too excited.



Neither the Rams or the Raiders even made it to Super Bowl XXI in 1987. Instead the Giants and the Broncos faced off against one another. They didn't have songs to give them good luck, but the Giants celebrated their victory by recording a track, a Katrina and the Waves parody called “Walk Like a Giant”. During the commercials of the 1987 Super Bowl, another football music video aired, but not from any team in the NHL, or even in America. It turns out that American football has some life beyond U.S. soil, even in Glasgow, Scotland. Makes perfect sense when you think about it. “Diamond Rap” by the Glasgow Diamonds is the most pop-centric and likable of the football songs. It was produced by Ivor Novello award-winning producer, Bill Padley and breaks from the “Shuffle” format by favoring only one singer who brings the rhymes in addition to a catchy pop chorus. The only off thing about the song is that the singer, Paul Birchard, is an actor, not a football player. Talent-cheating aside, the video is fun, the song is enjoyable, and Birchard is charming in his role as a football singer with a good set of pipes.



Football songs started to fade by '88. The Philadelphia Eagles' “Buddy's Watchin' You” (a reference to their coach, Buddy Ryan) is a forgettable song in the vein of “Super Bowl Shuffle” with an under-produced video. The “49ers Rap” is equally weak, but their video is more watchable with a slew of kitschy editing and digital 2-D animation that looks like it was rendered in MS Paint. They're the “team of the eighties” alright.
Elsewhere in the sporting world, the Calgary Flames composed a power ballad called “Red Hot”. There's no sign of the stereotypical hockey aggression here, no spitting on the mic, just wistful hope, pride, and full, glorious mustaches: “you can climb the highest mountain, you can put a man on the moon, you can see to the horizon... but you can't touch a flame when it's RED HOT!” Unlike all the other tracks from '88, Liverpool Football Club (not the American kind) took the Hollywood of “Super Bowl Shuffle” to heart, and produced a serious hip-hop track. “Anfield Rap” riffs off of a few of the hip-hop tracks of the day and delivers a witty song with a colorful video reminiscent of the opening of Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. In this track the only two native Liverpudlian's on the team make fun of the other player's accents (and viceversa) It's an amazing gem of 80s British hip-hop.



The fad had all but died when the 90s set in, and the Dolphins were the final nail in the coffin. “You Can't Touch Us” by Cory and the Fins sees the Dolphins rapping to a parody of MC Hammer's “U Can't Touch This”. The opening is pure retro cheese. South Floridian talk radio personalities Rick and Suds are in the studio playing the campy “Miami Dolphins Fight Song” from the 70s and get Dolphin linebacker David Grigs on the phone. Cut to Grigs leaning against a white Mercedes in an alleyway, wearing a tank top and Zubaz pants, talking to the hosts on a walkie talkie-sized cellphone: “yo, first of all Rick, the Dolphins are back. We're a new team, we're Super Bowl bound, and they can't touch us.” It's not just Grigs kickin' it in Zubaz, it's the whole team and the cheerleaders (Dan Marino is fashionably absent from the whole video). Every Dolphin present gets to rap a line or two, but the real star of the video isn't a Dolphin at all, but the mysterious “cool guy” named Cory. I mean, nothing says cool like a dude in a tux and bow tie with no shirt underneath riding an escalator with a Hooters girl as he threatens to, “bust these football lyrics.” The video is colorful, super dated, and full of laughs. Stop. Dolphin time.



The only other highlights from football music in the 90s is Bill Medley's “Friday Night's a Great Night for Football” which served as the awkward opening title sequence for an otherwise terrific movie. Tony Scott's 1991 action movie The Last Boy Scout. If the former Righteous Brother's song and dance serves any purpose, it's to put you off guard for how fucked up the opening scene of the movie is. (Possibly the most incredible movie moment ever filmed on a football field, but I'll let you do the clicking to find out why.) In 1999 the Jacksonville Jaguars released a song and video for "Uh Oh, The Jaguars Super Bowl Song". It didn't give them any good luck and its presence on the internet is almost nonexistent. It wasn't until 2005 that another team tried their luck with a song and video. Funk music superstar, Bootsy Collins teamed up with his home team, the Cincinnati Bengals for a bit of hip-hop and funk fusion called “Fear Da Tiger”. Despite the star power of Collins, the song weak, succumbs to a similar “Shuffle” format and both the song and the video are mediocre without entertainment value.

Now, 2010, the football video has returned in slick, new self-aware package. LaDainian Tomlinson, aka. L.T., of the San Diego Chargers, a football mega-star, is now an Internet sensation. His song and video for “L.T. Electric Glide” is mind-blowingly ridiculous. It's a send up of to the comedy songs of Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job complete with green screens, cheesy effects, and homeless-looking backup dancers. The video was filmed two years ago for a Nike ad, but not released until now, and was directed by Tim Skousen, the assistant director of Napoleon Dynamite. L.T.'s dance is real easy to do, you just glide with it, and “wave to your mama – she's in the stands.” Check it out, you'll have all the moves down in no time.



This story comes full circle. Twenty-five years after the “Super Bowl Shuffle” began all this madness it's about to return. During the commercials of Super Bowl XLIV members of the 1985 Chicago Bears - Jim McMahon, Mike Singletary, Richard Dent, Willie Gault, Otis Wilson, Steve Fuller and Maury Buford will return to perform an updated version of “The Super Bowl Shuffle”. The reunion is for a Boost Mobile commercial as a part of their “Unwronged” advertising campaign, but as with the original “Shuffle” the Bears aren't doin' it because they're greedy. Boost customers will be able to download the “Boost Mobile Shuffle” ringtone for a dollar and the proceeds go to charity.
 -Cap



Audio Archaeology is a Media Potluck and Consequence of Sound presentation.



UPDATE
 Now, for your viewing pleasure, the full "Boost Mobile Shuffle":

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

True Geniuses, Real Stories

Media Potluck is proud to present, "True Geniuses, Real Stories"!

Two alternative 80s comedies with amazing soundtracks! These movies aren't cheesy nostalgia trips, they're works of art.

First up is 1985's "Real Genius". This movie, though, similar in format to many of its contemporaries, stands above the average 80s college comedy film. A young Val Kilmer stars as a fun-loving genius working against the system while the government tries to trick him into developing a Star Wars-like space defense program. It's social commentary, big laughs, terrific direction, and an astounding alternative music selection from a bunch of amazing bands that have been forgotten (oh yeah, and Tears For Fears). Directed by Martha Coolidge who also directed the totally awesome, "Valley Girl".

"Real Genius" trailer:



Then we have Cap's favorite film of all time: 1986's "True Stories". The film is written, directed by, and starring Talking Heads' frontman David Byrne. It's a work of art - a musical comedy that observes modern American life in ways no one has before or since. The fictional town of Virgil, Texas is celebrating their state's sesquicentennial with a big talent show. It's tabloid strangeness come to life, it's a completely cool, multi-purpose movie that will leave you forever changed.

"True Stories" trailer:



Not only is this a Media Potluck, but it's also a REAL potluck, so everyone is asked to try to bring some food to share! We will be providing a delicious cake. Please RSVP and comment with what delicious food you'll bring.

RSVP on Facebook.
Non-Facebook users e-mail us to RSVP and get directions at mediapotluck@gmail.com.